Category Archives: recipes

The hell with organic, I want my produce cheap!

The financial pundits are telling us to cut our budgets by NOT purchasing organic produce.  I couldn’t agree more.

Last week I went on a pilgrimage to the San Jose Flea Market (, which has over 2000 vendors selling everything from tropical fish to sari fabric to haircuts.  Yes, some of the stalls are barbershops!  But I was mostly there to check out their legendary Produce Row, a quarter-mile-long farmers’ market.  Most of this flea market’s denizens are Latino (and most of the signage is in Spanish) so the available produce was primarily stuff used in Mexican cooking.  For less than $20, I picked up:

1 pound of strawberries
5 pounds pinto beans
5 pounds rice
2 pounds of tomatoes @ 99 cents/pound (you’d pay $3/pound at the Ferry Plaza Market)
a few yellow onions
a bag of dried red chili peppers that will last me for YEARS
6 bananas
5 heads of garlic
3 avocados
2 pounds red potatoes

I got home and made a batch of Lazy Girl’s Burritos with my haul and a few things I had at home:

1 medium tomato, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 dried red chili peppers, chopped
1 can (16 oz?) vegetarian refried beans

Combine all above ingredients in a saucepan and stir slowly over medium heat until hot.  Serve with flour tortillas and sliced avocado (and sour cream and grated cheese, if you have it).  Serves four (and you will probably have leftovers).

Closer to home, I like to shop for cheap produce at the Park Farmers Market (400 Irving) and Noriega Produce (3821 Noriega).  Why pay $3.99 for a little box of raspberries at Safeway or Trader Joe’s when you can get the same thing at Park for 99 cents?

Now I’m going to Google “refried beans recipe” and figure out what to do with all these pinto beans.


In the News: Cooking Secrets

(soundtrack to this post: “The Key The Secret” by Urban Cookie Collective)

10 techniques every cook should know (SF Chronicle)

Making the perfect chocolate chip cookie (NY Times, may require registration)

More news: I heard on Science Friday today that vegetable and herb seed sales at Burpee have doubled this year. Apparently people are trying to save money on produce by growing their own.

Poached Salmon in the Dishwasher


Dammit, WordPress is not letting me embed the video. Point your browser here:

(via and b3ta)

Dispatch from the Mashed Potato Lab

My research into various methods of making mashed potatoes continues. An update on my findings:

Using a Crock-Pot (the ultimate slacker appliance) on the Low setting, even overnight, will not cook potatoes (or other root vegetables) completely. It just doesn’t get hot enough. However, cooking on High for around 5 hours seems to work OK. The Crock-Pot probably uses less energy than boiling potatoes on the stove top (I have an electric stove – ugh) and doesn’t heat up your kitchen as much on those hot days when you don’t feel like cooking.

I haven’t yet tried boiling potatoes in the microwave — the batches I’ve been making have been too large to fit in there.

The Yukon Gold batch was mighty tasty.

I’ve tried two methods of mashing: stand mixer vs. food mill. The mixer method thoroughly whips those taters into shape, leaving a smooth texture. I mix them with the flat beater, then the wire whip; if you like your potatoes a little lumpy, just use the flat beater. The food mill (using the coarsest disc) takes about the same amount of time, uses no electricity, and gives you a flakier texture than the mixer – similar to what you’d get using a ricer.

Cleanup: Since I don’t have a dishwasher, washing the big mixer bowl and beater parts is more of a production than washing the food mill. Hand-washing a Crock-Pot is always a pain in the ass because it’s so heavy and slippery, but cleanup after boiling potatoes in it isn’t so awful because there’s no sticky mess. (I always use a plastic liner when making something really nasty like chili in my Crock-Pot.)

Mashed Potatoes: a few methods

For years, all my mashed potatoes came out of a cardboard box.

Then I worked in retail for a while, and took advantage of my employee discount to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer (in turquoise). The instruction manual came with a recipe for mashed potatoes, so I tried it, and it was good. The recipe has you mash the potatoes first with the flat beater, then you whip them at top speed with the whisk.

You don’t need to peel your potatoes before boiling; just wash them. The skin is good for you! When you boil your potatoes, add a few cloves of garlic. You can also boil your potatoes in a slow cooker for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low, while you’re out working or doing errands.

I recently started making mashed potatoes by running the cooked potatoes through my OXO food mill, using the coarsest milling disc. The mill can make short work of several pounds of potatoes. With this device, you don’t need to own a potato ricer, which is great for those of us with tiny kitchens and limited storage space.

Cooking, Portion Control and the Single Girl

For dinner last night I opened a package of chicken breasts (two) and baked them in Trader Joe’s Satay Peanut Sauce.  This was really more food than necessary for one person, but I ended up eating all of it, rationalizing (this time) that it was the only thing I’d eaten all day.

I tend to do this a lot, since most packaged foods and recipes are in quantities for more than one person. (Yes, I know there are tons of single-serving frozen meals out there, but they can be pricey and most taste like cardboard.)  I’m not a big fan of leftovers.

Of course I have people over for dinner on occasion, and my roommate and I often share meals, but most of the time, what’s a single person to do?

Marinara Sauce

I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Williams-Sonoma website.

  • 2.5 lb. tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

This is the point in the recipe where I attempted to puree the tomatoes using the infamous Martha Stewart food mill (see below). Because the spinning part is about half an inch from the bottom, it took me almost an HOUR to smash the tomatoes completely, and no matter what I did I still had chunks left over. I would have been better off using my blender.

The original recipe tells you to first sauté the garlic in the olive oil, add the remaining ingredients and cook on the stove top (add the basil at the very end). Since I didn’t feel like slaving over the stove, I threw everything in my Crock-Pot (set on High) and did something else for four hours.

The Crock-Pot method worked well for the most part, but I will make some changes for my next batch of sauce. When cooking with a Crock-Pot there is no reduction, so the sauce was really runny; next time I’ll crack the lid open a bit. Also, there was really no point in adding any olive oil; it just floated there on top. Finally, I will not add the basil until the end of cooking.

I froze most of the sauce and put the remainder in the fridge to eat later. The sauce reheated and reduced nicely on the stove top a few days later. I added some fresh sliced shiitakes from the farmers’ market (buy the ugly ones, they’re cheaper). This sauce was yummy with some pasta and fresh parmesan.

This is a great thing to make in a big batch on a lazy Sunday afternoon and freeze it for later. Cooking in a Crock-Pot allows you to ignore it while it’s cooking, without burning the place down.